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Social distancing is changing homeowners’ needs

The growing possibility that a life with some form of lockdown restrictions, face masks and social distancing may well persist into 2021 – and possibly beyond – is likely to impact the lifestyle choices property owners make when purchasing or renting a new home

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The growing possibility that a life with some form of lockdown restrictions, face masks and social distancing may well persist into 2021 – and possibly beyond – is likely to impact the lifestyle choices property owners make when purchasing or renting a new home

While lockdown restrictions were eased at the beginning of this week, allowing a semblance of normality to return, the prospect of a possible peak in infections later in the year or a second wave of the virus in the near future, poses concerns for all citizens and will impact on their choice of residence, says Andrew Golding, chief executive, Pam Golding Property group.

“In a time of social distancing, it makes sense for people to minimise their interactions with people outside of family and a close circle of friends. One of the ways to achieve this is to remain in one’s neighbourhood – shopping, eating (when permissible) and using the amenities in the area. This suggests an increase in activity in ‘Main Street’ or neighbourhood shopping centres rather than large shopping malls, which attract large numbers of shoppers from a wide area.”

Another way to minimise interaction with others is to live and work in a place which o­ffers retail outlets, sporting amenities, schools, medical facilities, offices or business hubs, or is near these amenities. Estate living ticks all these boxes and often even more.

Says Golding, “If social distancing becomes a more permanent feature of the national and international landscape, one could expect growing demand for homes in estates – as people seek the relative safety o­ffered by living in the confines of an estate.”

Increasing appeal

Lifestyle estates, especially those within easy reach of cities and major hubs, have proven increasingly attractive in recent years for several reasons, says Golding. These include security, as well as open spaces such as play areas for children and 24-hour security patrols, among other features, all contributing to a less stressful family-oriented way of life with safe open spaces for exercise, sporting pursuits and recreation.

“These features make estates far less accessible to members of the public, thereby reducing exposure to external influences, plus there’s the potential for more spacious homes, reducing the feeling of being confined to a small space during a lockdown.”

Amenities such as schools, childminding and shopping facilities and other activities on site all contribute to a sense of security from a health and safety point of view, while providing highly attractive environs in which to live, with fewer maintenance hassles.

“Some estates also lend themselves to multi-generational living with a wide variety of options available – such as more a­ffordable apartment and cottage units catering to young couples or retirees, over and above the more spacious homes on o­ffer. There’s a trend towards incorporating a more diverse o­ffering of homes in estates – including more a­ffordable sectional title properties and retirement villages. This ensures that estate living caters to a larger market of potential homeowners.”

He says the lack of congestion on an estate has great appeal for those wanting to escape from high-density, congested city living, where some have been cooped up in tiny apartments.

Estates will also become increasingly attractive for those who can and want to work from home. “Many estates are increasingly self-sufficient and completely or partly off­ the grid in terms of water and energy, making the decision to live in a secure lifestyle estate wise in terms of cost and convenience.”

Affluent buyers buy into estates

New World Wealth estimates that over 40% of South African HNWIs (high net worth individuals) live or have homes on residential estates, says Sandra Gordon, senior research analyst, Pam Golding Properties. “Recent trends in this sector of the market include a move towards lifestyle and retirement estates, rather than golf estates, while parkland estates with parks, birdlife, walking and cycling trails are becoming more popular. Most developers are now creating small neighbourhoods within estates, allowing for more open spaces and parklands, unlike the old model where homes were spaced evenly around the entire property. In addition, many estates have started to add luxury apartments to their o­fferings, whereas previously, most estates focussed only on freehold houses.”

“Even as house prices – particularly at the upper end – slow in the face of a struggling economy, which had slipped into recession even before Covid-19, the percentage of estate homes sold in the upper price band has continued to rise, albeit relatively slowly. It appears likely that the arrival of Covid-19 and the persistence of infection fears will reinforce the trend by underlining the appeal of estate living,” Gordon says.

What buyers want

Lockdown and Covid-19 have undoubtedly changed our world forever. This also rings true for our wants and needs when it comes to new homes.

Shaken by the e­ffects of Covid-19, the world is going to be a vastly di­fferent place long after we emerge from the national lockdown. When it comes to the property market, Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO, RE/MAX of Southern Africa, predicts that buyer preferences are also going to be quite di­fferent.

1 Extra space to work or study

The way we conduct business might forever change now that companies have seen that they can continue operating while their employees work remotely. Home offices were once make-do setups, but buyers will be looking for a more long-term, functional space. “After spending so much time at home, I think people will want homes with a larger floor area and an office-type room. They might also shy away from open-concept living spaces and prefer homes with separate living areas,” he predicts.

2 Space for the extended family

For many, staying home has meant staying apart, inspiring some to consider homes that could bring the family under one roof. “We’re likely to see an increase in interest in homes with bigger kitchens, living areas and two master suites, or homes with separate semi-detached spaces that could serve as a second living space.”

3 Larger grounds

Children, parents, dogs – everyone has pent-up energy to burn these days. A private outdoor space allows room to play and a place to enjoy a braai without leaving home. “We might even see people investing in swimming pools again once the warmer seasons approach.”

4 Swapping the city for the country

With movement being so restricted, city living doesn’t o­ffer the hustle and bustle it used to. Many homebuyers may be rethinking their dreams of living in a big city in favour of owning a larger home on the outskirts of town.

“People are going to look for homes where they aren’t living on top of their neighbours. The appeal of living in tiny apartments just to be near business hubs is likely to lessen, especially if companies continue to allow their employees to work remotely,” he says.

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